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Clin Chem. 2010 May;56(5):772-80. doi: 10.1373/clinchem.2009.140459. Epub 2010 Mar 26.

Quantification of galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase enzyme activity by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry.

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The Manton Center for Orphan Disease Research, Division of Genetics, Department of Pediatrics, Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.



The diagnosis of galactosemia usually involves the measurement of galactose-1-phosphate uridyltransferase (GALT) activity. Traditional radioactive and fluorescent GALT assays are nonspecific, laborious, and/or lack sufficient analytical sensitivity. We developed a liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS)-based assay for GALT enzyme activity measurement.


Our assay used stable isotope-labeled alpha- galactose-1-phosphate ([(13)C(6)]-Gal-1-P) as an enzyme substrate. Sample cleanup and separation were achieved by reversed-phase ion-pair chromatography, and the enzymatic product, isotope-labeled uridine diphosphate galactose ([(13)C(6)]-UDPGal), was detected by MS/MS at mass transition (571 > 323) and quantified by use of [(13)C(6)]-Glu-1-P (265 > 79) as an internal standard.


The method yielded a mean (SD) GALT enzyme activity of 23.8 (3.8) mumol x (g Hgb)(-1) x h(-1) in erythrocyte extracts from 71 controls. The limit of quantification was 0.04 micromol x (g Hgb)(-1) x h(-1) (0.2% of normal control value). Intraassay imprecision was determined at 4 different levels (100%, 25%, 5%, and 0.2% of the normal control values), and the CVs were calculated to be 2.1%, 2.5%, 4.6%, and 9.7%, respectively (n = 3). Interassay imprecision CVs were 4.5%, 6.7%, 8.2%, and 13.2% (n = 5), respectively. The assay recoveries at the 4 levels were higher than 90%. The apparent K(m) of the 2 substrates, Gal-1-P and UDPGlc, were determined to be 0.38 mmol/L and 0.071 mmol/L, respectively. The assay in erythrocytes of 33 patients with classical galactosemia revealed no detectable activity.


This LC-MS/MS-based assay for GALT enzyme activity will be useful for the diagnosis and study of biochemically heterogeneous patients with galactosemia, especially those with uncommon genotypes and detectable but low residual activities.

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